Mental illness charity joins forces with Jewish Care

By Simon Rocker, May 3, 2012

The Jewish Association for Mental Illness is to merge with the community's largest social services provider, Jewish Care, in September, resulting in what both charities believe will be an improved mental health provision.

Golders Green-based JAMI "will not be swallowed up", its chief executive Laurie Rackind insisted. It would retain its name, operating as an agency of Jewish Care. Neither organisation is looking to cut staff.

Founded as a charity in 1991, JAMI has two dozen employees and an annual £800,000 budget - roughly the same amount that Jewish Care puts into its own non-residential mental health programmes. Around 25 Jewish Care staff will transfer to JAMI.

"We are not looking to save money but use the resources we have more efficiently," Mr Rackind said. "We will still have to raise £1.5 million to £2 million a year because statutory funding is negligible."

But the merger should facilitate a reduction in "back office" costs such as information technology, freeing more money towards front-line care.

‘It became clear that we were converging rather than diverging’

Mr Rackind firmly believed "in collaboration where possible and not reinventing the wheel or duplicating services. So, at every opportunity, we consulted with Jewish Care and others about what we were doing and what we could do together.

"As we were both focused on the needs of those with mental health problems, it became clear that we were converging rather than diverging."

JAMI had grown over the past four years because of increasing awareness of mental health issues, he pointed out.

"Already, we're finding that younger people feel less stigmatised by mental health conditions than older generations and are more prepared to talk about it.

"And there is a large amount of evidence that if conditions are treated early they are more likely to make a full recovery."

A major challenge was "the change to benefit rules. It is harder and harder for those under 35 to get the level of benefit to find any accommodation at all in a Jewish area.

"If people are isolated because of a mental health condition, it is no good sending them miles and miles away. If you can provide a decent roof over their head, volunteering and work opportunities, then people can help themselves."

Jewish Care was itself born of a 1990 merger between the Jewish Welfare Board and the Jewish Blind Society and has since gone on to incorporate institutions including Redbridge Jewish Community Centre, the Stepney Day Care Centre and Brighton's Hyman Fine Home.

Last updated: 6:40pm, May 3 2012